The 80’s was one hell of a time for Korea.  Korea was undergoing an incredible economic makeover, having its culture transformed by pop culture both domestic and abroad. It was also preparing for the 1988 Olympics, arguably the breakthrough test for the peninsula to see if it could stand with the other developed nations of the world.  The Korean diaspora was spreading to many different parts of the world; you could find families that emigrated to the USA, South America, Europe, Australia, and more.  This new generation of Koreans born abroad already had their own national and cultural identities in their respective home countries.  But what happens when you bring them together to learn about their ancestral roots? That’s what the new movie Seoul Searching, by Director Benson Lee, is trying to explore.  Set is 1986, Seoul Searching follows a group of Koreans born abroad (also known as gyopos) from around the world as they come together to a cultural education camp in South Korea.

I had a chance to sit down with Mr. Lee to talk about his movie and what it was like to film in Korea with such a global cast of actors and actresses.  After meeting him I was very excited to see a preview for the movie, and I was not disappointed.

From the preview, we can feel the culture of the 80’s oozing out of the screen.  From the neon lettering to the soundtrack; this view into the 80’s should not be considered as only one’s person perspective into the past, but a nostalgic tale of a time that all ages can appreciate and respect.  We are first introduced into the main character, Sid Park, played by Justin Chon.  Our rebel who just does not give a damn about a culture that emphasizes self-image; his image is what he makes it to be, and he doesn’t care if people approve or not.  We also meet our Madonna follower, Grace Park, played by Jessica Van.  Dancing and strutting like she owns the world; she knows she is a force to be reckoned with  From there we get a montage of short scenes played over a fitting score of Van Halen, Public Enemy, and Erasure.

From the short preview, its clear that the cast of characters will have a bit of a struggle as they come face to face with Korean history and with each other.  As they bring hip hop and sexuality to the camp, they also have to deal with the conflicts that followed them from their home country and the ones that are made during their time at the camp in 1986.  During my time with Mr. Lee, he stressed that he tried to make sure that this was a coming-of-age tale that can relate to any person regardless of nation or cultural identity.   This films looks like it has the potential to reach the widest of audiences. We can see this appeal with scenes of budding relationships, all-out brawls, and moments of despair with lots of tearjerker moments; all inter-cut with uplifting moments of rap battles, first experiences with the opposite sex, and intros to comical characters that play off as barriers and obstacles that the main cast of characters have to break through.  All while a teenage dance montage is going on most likely playing the hottest MTV hits of the times.  This movie so far seems to be standing up against any other timeless teenage cinematic classic.

Seoul Searching will be shown sometime next year.  If you would like to know more, follow the movie on Facebook or their Tumblr website.

About The Author

Jason Cho

Originally from the Virginia countryside, Jason came to Korea first as a teacher. Four years later, he's branching out to something new. When he's not doing Crossfit, he's checking out new restaurants to gorge himself and new experiences to excite him.